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A Must Read-- 'An Uncommon Cancer Journey: The Cosmic Kick that Healed Our Lives'

My dear friend and long time colleague, Alice Suter Hardesty, has authored a book-An Uncommon Cancer Journey: The Cosmic Kick that Healed Our Lives- with such authenticity and insights about the vagaries of 'couple-dom' and the search individually and collectively for alternative treatments when advised of her husband's terminal diagnostic status. Jack lived 20+ years past the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and German clinic's dismal esophageal cancer prognoses; their emotional and spiritual exploration with highs and lows informs me about our common Achilles heels, what we don't know about curing cancer, and how I could benefit from a comparable deep dive series of adventures. Alice stirred me to remember to suspend my own beliefs and embark on untried 'life living' strategies. It's a must read for a range of reasons and a great book club pick (http://www.bachopress.com/).

This thoughtful 'alternative' cure seeking journey Alice offers gives me pause to reexamine the developing country healthcare sector program scope I work to influence in telehealth/telerehabilitation contexts. As a former pediatric audiology clinician, policy advocate for health, rehabilitation and education legislation and regulations, author of testimony, creator of national and international professional development distance education, and current proponent and strategic planner of technology applications for strengthening developing countries' health resource capacity and twinning of institutions for sharing specialty resources, I ponder the Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) strategies Alice describes in the context of the burgeoning global telehealth systems metrics literature. I have not attempted a meta-analysis, but my curiosity is piqued as a practitioner, designer of projects, and consultant.

In the US, it's been more than a decade since NIH developed its National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), the Federal Government's lead agency for scientific research on CAM. With a third long range strategy document, the Center defines its mission and 3 long term goals  to --

  1. Advance the science and practice of symptom management.
  2. Develop effective, practical, personalized strategies for promoting health and well-being.
  3. Enable better evidence-based decision making regarding complementary and alternative medicine use and its integration into health care and health promotion.

The Center's goal-related objectives encompass--

  1. Advance research on mind and body interventions, practices, and disciplines.
  2. Advance research on complementary and alternative medicine natural products.
  3. Increase understanding of “real world” patterns and outcomes of complementary and alternative medicine use and its integration into health care and health promotion.
  4. Improve the capacity of the field to carry out rigorous research.
  5. Develop and disseminate objective, evidence-based information on complementary and alternative medicine interventions.

In a global health context, related questions emerge: How do donors' aid requirements for developing countries' health care system improvement integrate nontraditional CAM opportunities that might shape outcomes and what metrics accommodate assessing such mixed methods? Is the trend toward fine tuning of monitoring and evaluation methodology by reconfiguring the gold standard randomized clinical trials to create a learn and modify milieu integrating CAM approaches? With an overwhelming number of variables to define in linking outcomes to inputs, how can the CAM research methodology be factored into an evaluation framework in low- and middle-resourced countries healthcare projects?

International healthcare systems development implications may not have been a blip on the author's list of motivations for capturing and publishing her and Jack's search for a 'cure' and the deepening of their relationship that transpired. As scientists, their drive to explore a myriad of cultures and healing methods in a 'mixed method' construct leaves this reader desirous of knowledge of a single cure agent that fostered Jack's extended life; it is not meant to be. But there's much to be gained personally and professionally from this compelling and courageous story Alice penned. I'm grateful once again for the modeling she provides as she did for more than four decades in her oft-awarded advocacy leadership in her field of hearing conservation regulation and forensics--unmentioned in this nonfiction effort.